NYSDEC recently launched its use of drones for things like monitoring coastal erosion on Lake Ontario, exploration of bat caves in Mineville, restoration of beach dunes on Fire Island, and monitoring Southern pine beetle in pine stands on Long Island. There are few known instances of drone use in the urban forests of New York; it’s thought that this is because people are worried about safety and are uncertain about the potentially prohibitive laws at work in populous areas.
However, the Council’s own Joseph Charap has begun using drones in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn with the help of his colleague, Vice President of Operations, Eric Barna. (Charap is Green-Wood’s Director of Horticulture and Curator.) Their first use of Barna’s Phantom 3 drone was to get aerial imagery of a veteran red oak (Quercus rubra) tree at Green-Wood that Charap suspected might be infected with oak wilt.
New York Tree Trust Development Director James Kaechele joined the Council Board last summer. The Council is lucky to have the contributions of this powerhouse who has achieved so much at 33! Here’s James in his own words.
From Scouts to Manhattan Forester
Growing up in suburban Connecticut, I spent my childhood camping and scouting, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. My family had a trailer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a lake; the best time of my childhood was being totally free to explore the forest.
When it was time to go to college in the early 2000s, I thought about going into plant biotech, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to work in a lab all day. I was always most interested in connecting people to the natural world. I majored in environmental and forest biology at SUNY ESF and while I was still a student, I worked at Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, Connecticut as an educator and then interim education director.
When I graduated I continued working at the arboretum as the education director. I was in charge of both child and adult education, so I was doing things like teaching busloads of first graders about the parts of a flower and putting “bee goggles” on them so they could see what a bee sees. I organized classes on all sorts of interesting topics for adults in the evenings and did some of the teaching myself. It was an exciting and fun job.
Last month, NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh came and spoke with the Council Board at their meeting at the NYSDEC Region 2 office on Long Island. Commissioner Kavanagh discussed three national, big-picture urban forestry projects with the Board: the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan, a report on the Impact of Urban and Community Forestry Federal Grants, and the Urban Forestry Toolkit. Let’s look at each one.
1) The Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026) was developed by and for the urban forestry community. It was funded by the US Forest Service and developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC)* with extensive input from stakeholders. You can read an interesting interview with Liam Kavanagh about the Plan here.
The Plan’s purpose is to expand awareness of the benefits that our urban forests, including green infrastructure, provide to communities throughout the nation, and increase investments in these urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.
New NYSUFC Board Member Joseph Charap is the Director of Horticulture and Curator for Green-Woodin Brooklyn. He’s also a new dad—his son Benjamin was born on September 3rd. Charap and his Green-Wood colleagues are transforming the historic landscape of this cemetery into an urban arboretum/public garden and expanding the ways people utilize its many resources.
I am a native New Yorker and I grew up in Lower Manhattan. After earning a BA and an MA in English Literature, I began working in a schizophrenia research lab. In my limited free-time, I assisted a professional gardener working in residential gardens around the city. It was during this time that I really began to connect with trees and other plants.
Through this work and other projects, it became clear to me that horticulture was my calling, but that I needed to get professional training. After a chance meeting with New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Vice President Francisca Coelho in 2013, I applied to and was accepted into NYBG’s School of Professional Horticulture. During my second year of the program, I held an internship at Green-Wood, and upon graduating, I was hired as Curator of Plant Collections. In January of 2017, I was made Director of Horticulture at Green-Wood.
Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 as one of the earliest “rural cemeteries.” It’s an accredited Level II Arboretum, occupying 478 acres in Brooklyn. We believe we will achieve Level III Accreditation within the next five years, as we continue to diversify our tree and shrub collection. [Level III arboreta have at least 500 species of woody plants, employ a collections curator, have substantial educational programming, collaborate with other arboreta, publicize their collections, and actively participate in tree science and conservation.]
Andrew Newman joined the Council Board last summer. He is Senior Correspondence Liaison for the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner’s Office.
Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in arboriculture and urban forestry? Andrew Newman: Growing up in Brooklyn, Prospect Park was always my big, open backyard. From a very young age, I volunteered for sapling planting efforts and learned about wildlife habitats from local park rangers. I have family from Palmyra, New York (outside Rochester) whose property was covered with walnut, oak, and conifers so that growing up, I became well acquainted with trees. After studying the intersection of religious traditions and the environment as well as the deep ecology movement, I decided I was interested in pursuing a career that would marry public service, public engagement, and nature.
What was your educational trajectory leading to arboriculture and urban forestry? AN: With degrees in Religion and Classics and Clinical Psychology, mine was a circuitous route to urban forestry! Most of my educational experience has been on the job and in classes provided by NYC Parks, Trees New York, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and other local organizations. Learning about forest ecosystems from experts in the field has been especially helpful.
by Nichole Henderson-Roy, Senior Stewardship Manager, Forestry, Horticulture & Natural Resources, NYC Parks
On August 29th and 30th, 2017, the NYC Parks Stewardship program welcomed the first-year class of the NYU College of Arts and Sciences to New York in a truly grand style. Over two days, 1,435 students and 60 staff members cared for 1,570 trees!
NYC Parks Director of Forestry for Brooklyn Andrew Ullman shares news of oak wilt containment efforts in that borough.
The image at left shows how oak wilt appears on the leaves of white oak (A) and on red oak (B). The leaves fall prematurely, with some green still present, from the affected trees.
To date, there has only been one confirmed case of oak wilt in NYC (Brooklyn) though there are several known outbreaks on Long Island. Oak wilt was first confirmed in Brooklyn in Green-Wood Cemetery during the fall of 2016. It should be noted, this tree was on private property and therefore not under the jurisdiction of NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks). NYC Parks has sampled about a dozen trees that are presenting possible oak wilt symptoms. We are currently awaiting the results from the lab and expect to have them within the next few weeks.
The potential impacts on NYC’s urban forest are significant. Citywide, there are nearly 90,000 street trees in the oak genus. Oaks make up roughly 13% of our street trees, and there are many more oaks growing in our parks and natural areas. Oak wilt, caused by Ceratocystis fagacearum, is a lethal vascular wilt fungi. Symptoms include wilting, defoliation, and ultimately death of the host tree. The disease is transmitted by root grafts or insects and affects host trees in a manner similar to Dutch elm disease.
After the confirmed case of oak wilt in Brooklyn, NYC Parks created a proactive inspection program to inspect trees within the boundary established around the confirmed infection site. Parks has inspected all of the oaks trees growing on the streets and in our parks within that boundary. Between NYC Parks inspectors and our friends at Trees New York, we looked at more than 3,000 oak trees as part of this program. We have also created a contract specifically for managing oak wilt. The work completed under this contract will aid us in our efforts to control the spread of oak wilt if we do find it has spread beyond the initial infection site.
Additionally, we are working closely with NYSDEC, Green-Wood Cemetery, and Cornell University’s Plant Pathology Lab to coordinate response and share information. Finally, we are also limiting non-emergency work on oak trees during the growing season to limit the likelihood of spreading the disease.
Ashleigh Pettus is the Operations Manager & Environmental Educator for Trees New York. She coordinates the organization’s summer Young Urban Forester Internship, which began in 2008.
Can you tell us about your educational background and how you came to Trees New York? Ashleigh Pettus: I graduated from Lehman College in 2016 with a BA in History and Minor in Childhood Education. I spent my winter and spring breaks volunteering; one of my most memorable spring breaks is when we traveled to Perryville, Arkansas to spend a week at Heifer International. There, I learned about rural farming and sustainability; I loved it so much, I went back and spent three months there.
When I came back to NYC, I wanted to share my knowledge but it had to be adapted to an urban setting. I found Just Food and taught some of their Farm School NYC classes. Soon after that I worked at Wave Hill in the Bronx, where I started to learn tree identification, fell in love with trees, and realized I wanted to focus my energy there. I was fortunate to be hired by Trees New York in the summer of 2015 to be an environmental educator. Eventually I became the Young Urban Forester Internship program coordinator as well. It’s a pleasure to share the things I’ve learned in this environmental field with my summer interns.
Please tell us about the internship. AP: Trees New York’s Young Urban Forester Internship is a seven-week, 175-hour urban and community forestry paid experience. The goal of the annual summer program is to introduce up to 16 high school juniors and seniors from low-income households in New York City to careers in the fast-growing field of environmental science and in urban forestry specifically.
Sarah Tyo is a Forest Health student at SUNY ESF and Rachel Grumm is a recent grad of SUNY ESF working as an urban forestry aide for Syracuse Parks and Recreation under the direction of Steve Harris. Sarah and Rachel received scholarships from the Council to attend ReLeaf 2017.
I am very grateful to have been able to attend the 2017 ReLeaf Conference at St. John’s University in Queens. I participated in the Natural Areas Tour that visited Alley Pond Park in Queens. It was the first natural area of the five boroughs that I’d been to, and I couldn’t believe how much plant diversity there was and how many trees were growing there. It had felt like we were transported to a forest in the country, minus the few random sounds of car horns. The City’s efforts in planting native species were apparent as tulip trees, northern red oaks, and other native trees filled the canopy. The tour was also a great way to get our legs moving.
During Friday’s lunch I was able to attend the first-ever ReLeaf Women’s Summit where anyone was welcome to sit and talk about being a woman in a male-dominated career field. It was a great way to meet other women who are established as professionals in urban forestry and hear about their experiences.
I attended the Saturday morning Forest Health and Research Update panel for the forests in NYC and Long Island. I have a personal interest in tree pests and pathogens, so I thought the panel was very informative and eye opening! A DEC Forest Health specialist went through the major threats facing our forests such as oak wilt, Asian longhorned beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, and many more! In New York we currently have a good number of pests feeding on our trees that we all need to be aware of and address.
These experiences, along with other panels and activities at this year’s ReLeaf Conference, made it an event that I will not forget. A big thank you to everyone who helped put this conference together and came to present! I thoroughly enjoyed my first conference and I am looking forward to next year’s. I hope to see you all there.
The conference was an amazing experience and I was honored to be given the opportunity to be a part of it. This experience was exactly what I needed as I’m working to set up my career path. I’ve really enjoyed the work I’ve done so far as part of my introduction to the urban forestry field and this event solidified the fact that this field is where my career is going. What excites me the most about urban forestry is that it’s such a diverse field aimed at bettering the surrounding environment and community.
My favorite part of the conference was the workshops. All the speakers were inspiring, fascinating, and positive. The workshop that stood out the most to me was “Post-Sandy Lessons Learned.” I liked how all three speakers took the storm as a way to learn more—and adapt. I participated in the Alley Pond Tour; in the past, I would pass Alley Pond on my way upstate but never before had the chance to visit. This natural area stunned me—I didn’t think this would exist in New York City!
I would like to thank the Council for providing funding for me to attend ReLeaf. I learned a lot, and it was an event I’ll always remember.
NYC’s Natural Areas Conservancy welcomed nine summer field interns from the City University of New York (CUNY). Over the course of eight weeks, the CUNY teams are studying NYC’s ecological health in 12 parks in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.
Led by Conservancy ecologists, the students are collecting data on plants and soil to help direct improvement of natural areas citywide. You can watch their progress and learn more about their findings by following The Natural Areas Conservancy on social media. The Conservancy thanks the Leon Levy Foundation, Lise Strickler, and Mark Gallogly for supporting this program.
Meet the interns:
Photo taken at Marine Park, Brooklyn
Front row: Irina Arias (environmental engineering); Uziel Crescenzi (landscape architecture); Kenia Pittman (landscape architecture); Brian Stonaker (biology); Merna Youssef (physics and mathematics); Stephanie Cando (biology).
Back row: Renee Montelbano (urban sustainability); Rafael Arias (environmental engineering); Harmanveer Singh (environmental science and urban studies).
Welcome to the New York State Urban Forestry Council Website